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Handling display calibration

Though it is the expectation that a monitor is ready as soon as it is removed from the box, most monitors need to be calibrated. A much more vivid, detailed, true experience can become available after it is done that can be enjoyed and “feels right”. Calibrating a monitor correctly requires training of the eye so it initially can take a bit of work.

Hardware

All settings done to calibrate the monitor should be done on a hardware level (except for possibly gamma) as software solutions almost never adjust the image truely. Before beginning, have the monitor on for about ten minutes as it can take the lamp this long to warm up and represent accurate values.

Gamma

Gamma correction is the adjustment of mid-tone luminosity. It is used to compensate for the non-linear relationship between the input signal and the luminance of a monitor. Televisions, computers, and the internet use a gamma of 2.2 as a standard so monitors set to this to be able to correctly display output. Most monitors default to the 2.2 standard but some monitors deviate and therefore hardware and/or software gamma correction is required. A high gamma will look glowy and a low gamma will appear errie and dark.

Alternate

Gamma test and Alternate

There is likely a gamma setting on the monitor if it needs to be adjusted. If there isn’t, or for further adjustment, a software solution is available. The first software solution would be to use the EDID data built-in to the monitor of most modern-day computers. It contains details about the monitor including gamma correction. The Desktop Environment may have the ability to grab the EDID and save it as an ICC profile (GNOME does), otherwise a program like Quickgamma in windows will do. If the monitor does not have EDID information, Quickgamma also has the ability to manually-calibrate the gamma and create an ICC profile from that; it saves the ICC profiles to C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color.

To load an ICC profile put it in ~/.local/share/icc/ and see if your Desktop Environment supports it. If it does not, a good program that can load them is xcalib.

In the image, lightly squint the eyes (or step away) to find the match where gamma blends with the background.

Contrast

Contrast defines the tonality of an image. Tonality is the gradient leveling from light to dark. With a high contrast the light and dark extremes become “crushed” or “blended” together, a low contrast the and images will appear flat. Contrast is also reflects the white-level (the brightness of white) of the monitor; contrast levels are often defined when buying a monitor because they will tell how bright the lamp is.

In this image, turn up the contrast to maximum and the reduce until all whites become distinct and the first block is just barely discernable.

Brightness

Brightness is better-referred to as black-level as it defines the “brightness of black”, or how bright darkness goes. Black is “black” or will be just above the black of the monitor if turned off. Adjust the image so that the left box just barely discernable. It may be necessary to go back and forth between contrast and brightness until the right balance is met.

Note: Discernability of the lightest light boxes and the blackest dark boxes should be possible on a modern monitor; however, it should be known that some monitors are unable to reproduce them.

Color balance

For color the first thing to do is adjust saturation. Saturation is the total amount of color the monitor will display. Too much saturation and images will be heavy with color, too little and they will appear faded. On some monitors the setting will be called Color, on others it will be Saturation, and on others it will be controled through an accumulative adjustment of the Red, Green, and Blue channels. Use the images below to determine saturation. Skin tone is a good indicator for this; however, also look at the colors on the color wheel as “bleeding” will at times occur when over-saturation occurs.

To adjust the color balance, also use the images below with skin tone as a reference. Do one color at a time, go back and forth, back and forth, until it feels right. When doing this be careful not to strain the eye too much as eye fatigue effects colorreception. Take a break after a little bit (get up and strech, make lunch…) and come back and you’ll immediately see, “Ah, the image is too red” or “Ah, the image is too blue”… The base colors Red, Green, and Blue also have complementary colors or complmentary light, the opposite of Red is Cyan, Green Magenta, and Blue is Yellow. If an image has too much Magenta it will need more Green. Again look at the skin tone (the gray in the first image works good). This is where the trained eye comes in. With practive eventually color bents will become discernable. Once it is achieved, the discovery of a well defined monitor can be begun to be enjoyed.

Skin-tone, gray background

Skin-tone, gray background

Light skin-tone

Light skin-tone

Darker skin-tone

Darker skin-tone

Resources

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About Todd Partridge (Gently)

Good times, good people, good fun.

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